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Posts from the ‘A War of Her Own’ Category

PAY ATTENTION

Pay attention? To what, you may ask. Pay attention to everything.

Learn how to tune into life and the world around you—the seen and the unseen. There is so much more to this world, and to those who people it, than we realize.

Pay attention to the weary-looking clerk checking your groceries. Strike up a conversation with her by asking how her day has been. If she’s tired, how many hours she’s worked that day. Find something to compliment them on. Pay attention to how their eyes light up and their backs straighten.

Smile and greet a stranger. Strike up a friendly conversation and enjoy their presence.

Pay attention to the trees blowing in the breeze, or the layer of frost on the ground. Walk outside at night and look up at the moon.

Notice if someone looks like they need help and offer it.

Pay attention when that still small voice says, “Slow down, don’t drive so fast.” Or, “let that person in line ahead of you.”

Pay attention to your significant other. Hear what they say and make sure you understand it correctly. Every day, tell someone you love them.

Pay attention to your own needs and the difference in how you feel when you take proper care of your body.

In other words, wake up to your world. Participate in it. Interact with others. Give of yourself. Care about each other and care about our planet.                

 

Copyright: Sylvia Dickey Smith

“Hawkish” Hillary Clinton

GUEST BLOGGERJanet Christian: JANET CHRISTIAN

I’ve avoided political topics on my Facebook wall because I don’t want it turning into a sh*tfest. But my son and I were chatting this morning and I realized something he doesn’t “get” simply because he did grow up as a white male in this country.

Hillary’s (likely) nomination is a HUGE step forward for women. Yes, she’s pretty “hawkish”. And as my husband Eric put it, she’s worked hard to be “badder than the boys” — pretty much like Margaret Thatcher was.

Here’s the thing most men don’t get — but any woman who has ever fought her way up the corporate ladder (as I did) DOES get, in spades: Women who don’t act like “one of the guys” will NEVER break the glass ceiling — not in politics, not in corporations. Period.

It is going to take some “ballsy” women to break that ceiling, so other, more “progressive” women can have their chance and follow behind them. That’s just the way it is. Look at how Hillary’s been attacked for “raising her voice” (how DARE a woman “yell”).

So I’m proud to see a potential woman president in my lifetime, after years of struggling in the male-dominated corporate world and being overlooked and stepped on time after time simply because of my gender. This is a HUGE milestone for women.

I like to think that younger women will now have so many more opportunities to make it WITHOUT having to sell out and act like “one of the guys”. They can be their proud female selves.

***

Janet posted this on her Facebook page today, and it so described why I celebrate recent events–well, really one reason. I also support Hillary Clinton because she is far and away the most qualified.  Hillary is a perfect fit for my theme of Writing Strong Women. So is Janet Christian for voicing the truth so well.

~Sylvia

 

FAIRY TALES, GLASS SLIPPERS & BEAUTIFUL OLD WOMEN

_MG_8948RetroSylvia Dickey Smith is a novelist whose fiction has won the hearts of readers everywhere, especially in the south. Often told in third person, her novels portray strong, memorable characters struggling with the same issues and timely situations that readers face in their own lives. In downtime from novels, she dabbles in re-imagined fairy tales, such as this one.

Smith is a native Texan, where she formerly conducted private practice as a psychotherapist. She has published stories and essays in anthologies, and her Sidra Smart mystery series received terrific reviews. Her most recent release, A WAR OF HER OWN, is a historical novel set in southeast Texas during WWII, yet it isn’t a war story. Instead, it is of the home front—a period of profound sociological change, particularly for women. Her most recent novel is ORIGINAL CYN, a tale of love, lust, transgression, betrayal, and the transformational power of forgiveness.

To contact: sylviadickeysmith@gmail.com

 

whineycroneIn a far off land, east of the sun and west of the moon, a whiney old crone named Drizella sits outside the golden gates of the Queen’s Palace, wailing over fate’s misfortune. Beautiful in her youth (according to her mother, at least) she’d dreamed of slipping her foot into the glass slipper, marrying the prince and living happily ever after, raising perfect children, with a castle full of nannies to make sure, and of course wearing the finest of clothes.

But, alas, the slipper had been too short, and her foot too long. Her one consolation was that neither had the shoe fit her sister—that is her real sister.

The winey crone snivels, wipes her nose on the sleeve of her ragged garment and bemoans the cruelty of years. Whence came all the wrinkles and this thin mousy gray hair? Not to mention her ever-enlarging nose and ears, and the few scraggly hairs on her chin. Even the ‘widow-maker’ treats her unfairly, refusing to return her tiny waist regardless of how tight she pulls the laces. Her back aches. Her sister never calls and her sons come around no longer—the ungrateful lot.

One beautiful sunny day, while in the midst of her whining, an even older crone appears with a glow on her face and a spring in her step—her voice pleasant, melodic, even. “Why do you whine, my dear sister? Do you not know this is the best years of your life? Too bad you did not well prepare yourself, else your step would spring and your voice would sing.”

“Give me a break,” the whiney old crone exclaims. “What’s so great about getting old, ugly and feeble? My back hurts, no one calls or comes to visit, and should I venture out, men pass me by as if unseen.” Whine. Whine. whine.

“It is because you spend your day in front of the mirror that you whine, my dear. For mirrors only beautiuful cronereflect the outward you, not giving chance for inward reflection. You give insult to the name of crone. For a true crone does not whine. Instead, she fills her days with wisdom learned over the years, with purpose, humor, courage, compassion for others, and vitality.”

“Vitality?” the whiney crone spat. “I fight to get out of bed every morning. How in the queen’s name am I to find vitality?”

“It takes years of work, my dear, and you are way behind. You’ve wasted your years regretting each one. You fail to feel empathy or compassion, or to use your energy and power wisely. As a consequence of such, you have not earned the joy a wise crone discovers with the passing years.”

“Okay, smarty pants. You know so much. Tell me what you did that is so different than me. For you, too, longed to wear the glass slipper and failed. You, too, have aged, yet I see young men here at your feet, eager to learn what you know. Why is that—tell me, old crone.”

“Dry your eyes, wipe your nose, and lend me your ear.”

The whiney crone did just that.

“First off,” the beautiful older crone said, “is to stop that infernal whining. You must let go of the idea that if the stupid glass slipper fit your big foot, your life would have been perfect. The shoe didn’t fit your big foot! What is is. Get over it.”

“Okay, Ms. Smarty Pants. Just tell me how in this world am I supposed to do that?”

broken slipper“Stop thinking about what didn’t work. To dwell on anything we have no power to change is a useless exercise, and we end up getting more and more depressed, and we spend our days whining about what might have been.

“The more you whine, the more stuck you are in the past—a past you can’t fix. The end result is you stay stuck right there at the moment the prince tried to put that silly glass shoe on your foot. That’s truly over and done with, but because you keep whining about losing out, you’re still caught at that moment in time. Which ends up helping you find even more to whine about.

“That was then—this is now. Whining makes you dry up into an old hag. Look in that mirror. Do you see one juicy thing about you?”

The whiney crone looked. She didn’t like what she saw. “You mean to tell me, if I stop whining, these wrinkles might go away?”

“It won’t make the wrinkles go away, but they’ll soften. You’ll have more energy—a passion for life. Get involved—care about something. Get interested in something—take your mind off of yourself and put it on others. Find something funny to laugh about—every day, without fail. If you can’t find it, create it—go find a young lover or something.” She laughed.

“Yeah, right. Like that’s going to happen.”

“You never know—but this one thing I can guarantee—it’ll put a spring in your step.”

“So, that’s all I need do?”

“Goodness no. There’s a lot more to life than that. Grow something. Crones are good at pruning, weeding.”

“You mean like a garden? I can’t do that, for my back is too stiff and my joints, they ache like a son-of-a-gun. Every time I kneel, my—”

“There you go, whining again. Growing something doesn’t mean it has to be plants, my silly sister. It can be, but other things need to grow, too. Nurture something—whether it be a garden or people. Find something—or someone—vulnerable—like a child that’s lonely, or a young mother who can learn from your wisdom. For, despite your whining, you have learned a few things over the years—and that is the wisdom of the ages—otherwise known as Women’s Intuition. Trust what you know deep down in your bones. Let that wisdom bubble to the top. Share it with those open to receive it—those who look for the wisdom of the ages. Learn to practice patience—then teach it to the impatient.”

“Is that all?” Drizella wondered how in the world could she remember all these lessons, let alone do them. “I should’ve been taking notes.”

The wise, juicy old crone smiled, for she knew the secret of the HOW. “By finding your voice, my dear. For silence equals consent. Crones like you and me? We speak our minds. We tell ’em how the cow ate the cabbage—that the emperor’s running around outside nekked. That’s how. Find your voice, use the wisdom of the ages, grow something, let go of the past, stop your dang whining and laugh—and learn the beauty of a big foot.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rosie the Riveter — Unapologetic

I love it when the muse whispers so loudly in my ear I must sit and write. Often it comes when I least expect it. I read a sentence or see a photograph or a painting, or read a poem, and I snatch the nearest pen and paper. This piece of flash fiction, below, was written under just such a circumstance. I looked at the woman sitting up on a pole and knew I must find the words to capture the attitude on her face. I had been browsing war posters of Rosie the Riveter as inspiration for my historical novel, “A War Of Her Own.”

rosiepole

Rosie pushed her goggles up on her forehead when the supervisor called her name. She walked forward and accepted her latest award with aplomb, pinning it on her chest alongside the other medals.

Receiving awards for meeting and exceeding her quota of good tight rivets—in place, and ready to go—were now commonplace, everyday occurrences. However, she wore every award with great pride, knowing her work performance outdid that of any man in the shipyard.

And here folks had said women couldn’t do this type of work that their place was in the kitchen, the USO, or wrapping bandages. Well, she’d shown them all!

She sauntered down the gangplank amidst catcalls, and “Way to go, Red!” shouted at her, but she didn’t care. She knew they were just jealous of her work performance, which was much better than theirs.

Rosie grabbed her lunch pail, pulled out a ham and cheese sandwich and climbed atop a thick, wooden post, rivet gun and all.

Head held high, she looked down her nose at the men below. They could make fun of her all they wanted to, but she wasn’t backing down, not for any of them. She’d found her place, and she was dang well staying in it – like it or not!

***
How about you? In what ways do you think “Rosie the Riveter” has impacted the role of women in our world today? What effect has that had on men? Do men handle women in the workplace better today than they did back then? Does the type of job make a difference?

#womensrighttowrite

Unexpected Surprises

Yesterday I received a nice surprise notice. The following article was published in the Orange County News!

“Writing Strong Women” offers sense of empowerment

May 22, 2013 “Orange County News” by Penny Leleux_MG_8948Retro

When Sylvia Dickey Smith started writing, she not only wanted to be a story teller, she wanted to make a difference. As a feminist writer, she creates strong female characters that have overcome adversity, be it controlling men, sexual or mental abuse or just coming to terms with their own insecurities and conquering them.

She uses her background as a counselor to weave tales with plausible storylines and tackles sensitive subjects contemporary to today’s world.

Four of her books take the form of mysteries based in her hometown of Orange, Texas. “Dance on His Grave” introduces you to Sidra Smart, a 50 something woman breaking free of a 30 something year marriage that was suffocating her spirit. Through the process of learning the ropes of private investigation she finds her voice as she breaks through years of suppression from a controlling husband and lifestyle. In freeing her own spirit, she helps others free their own.

Sid’s back story is not unlike Smith’s own. Both were married at 17 and were in controlling marriages with religious backgrounds.

Smith started college in her 40s and discovered a whole new world she didn’t know existed. She broke free of her marriage and became a counselor.

She started her writing career in her 60s. Smith kept talking about writing and one day a friend told her, “Sylvia, you’re always talking about writing a book, just shut-up, sit your butt in the chair and write it.” That was her call to action. It was time to put up or shut up.

“Writing Strong Women” has become her motto.

“Dance on His Grave” is based on a client she had as a counselor. The client always wanted Smith to tell their story to help others. After much time, “Dance on His Grave” is the result of that encounter.

“Dance” was followed by “Deadly Sins Deadly Secrets” and “Dead Wreckoning.”

She then penned a historical novel, “A War of Her Own” that takes place in Orange during the shipbuilding boom of World War II. Some of that story was based on her mom.

Most recently published was another in the Sidra Smart series featuring the cantankerous “Boo” Murphy in “The Swamp Whisperer.”

Currently a standalone novel, “Original Cyn” is being shopped to publishers by a new agent Smith recently signed with.

Smith spends much time promoting her books through book signings and speaking engagements, networking with other writers and working on the next great novel.

Though she visits her hometown of Orange frequently, she lives in Georgetown, Texas and will soon be relocating to Hot Springs, Ark. with current husband, Ret. Army Col. William Smith.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has “done everything but print it.” Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.

White Knights & Pink Pigs

Our guest author today is Lindsay Frucii, a recent guest on my Blog Talk Radio program, Writing Strong Women and the author of The Pig & Me-a powerful story of her ‘knight’ and the journey of a very strong woman.

In 1989 when a personal bankruptcy robbed her family of financial security, Lindsay decided the way back to marital and family bliss was to start a business that would make gobs of money. Out of the mantra “there must be something I can do”€ and a passion for fat-laden, fudgy brownies that made it hard to zip her jeans, an idea was born: healthy brownies for the masses. In a leap of faith borne on the wings of innocence and naivete, she founded No Pudge! Foods, Inc., and began an unexpected whopper of a roller coaster ride.

Be warned, this post is a little long, so if you can’t finish it in one sitting, mark it and come back and finish. It is well worth your time.

The fairy tale is an enviable, business success story. The reality is the story of a woman who was raised hearing “You can’t” and found, to her surprise and great satisfaction, she could – and then some.

As a little girl, I always knew exactly what my life would be like when I grew up. After high school I would learn a trade and live at home until my white knight came along. You know, the tall, handsome dude on the white horse. The one who would carry me off to a big house with a white picket fence where I would be his wife and raise our children. His job would be to earn a good living and take care of me because God knows, as a woman, I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself.

When the white knight didn’t come along as planned, I was left feeling insecure and lost. On my 25th birthday, my older sister – who’d married right on cue at twenty-one and had two babies in two years – cheerfully informed me that I was officially an old maid. As I approached my 28th birthday, still single, it suddenly hit me that I was tired of waiting for that damn knight. Suddenly hit me. As in never crossed my mind before.  You know it’s almost embarrassing to write that, but it’s the God’s honest truth. I was twenty-seven and a half years old before I first thought that maybe it was time to stop waiting. Waiting for the damn knight. Waiting for someone to create a home with. Waiting for someone else to make me happy. Waiting to play the role I’d been raised to believe I’d be a failure without.

So I quit my job as a nurse, got an entry-level job in Corporate America, started making a lot more money and damn, didn’t that knight show up. He was driving a Saab Turbo instead of riding a white horse, but he was tall and handsome, had a great job, owned his own house and at 29, was still – incredibly – single.  Boo Yaa!

You’re probably thinking, “She’s a little slow, but at least she finally got it” and assuming that my knight and I married and had little knights (we did). It also makes sense you believe I’d grown enough by then that our marriage was one where we both considered me a strong and equal partner. Ah…. No.

My husband had been raised to view our roles in the same way I had and once our first son was born, we both slipped unknowingly right back into them. It turns out that roles ingrained in you since birth don’t disappear, they simply submerge, waiting to rear their ugly heads at the first sign of weakness.

I adore the role of being a mother. To this day being a mother to my two sons is, without a sliver of doubt, the role that makes me happiest. But the role of unequal wife? Not so much. The lack of equality was not an in-your-face, you-are-the-subservient-wife thing and it was never conscious on either of our parts. It was just the way it was. For me it translated into a frequent sense of discomfort – like the costume I’d been handed was too heavy, too scratchy and too confining. I wore it for fourteen years before rebelling. What can I say? I’m a slow learner…

I was forty-four when I began to tear the costume off. We were going through a difficult financial and emotional time. Not an optimal time for rebellion, but when the voice inside you finally wakes up and screams ENOUGH! – you listen.

I decided I wanted to start a business – telling myself I was doing it to help my husband and family financially. But where I saw a golden opportunity, my husband saw a money pit and the harder I pushed, the stronger his resistance. I dug in my heels, telling myself I was going to prove him wrong. But that feeling quickly became an overpowering need to prove to myself that I didn’t have to live the life that others had designed for me. As I began to evolve and grow, my marriage struggled to do the same. The process almost tore us apart, but today our relationship is stronger and happier. We are, in every sense of the word, partners.

I now know that life is too short to be wasted trying to live the life that others expect you to live. That said, I also know the feeling of terror that accompanies the beginning of rebellion and understand all too well how hard it is to break out of a role you feel super-glued into. But we all deserve to live our life. The life that brings joy and freedom and gratitude – not the one that breeds exhaustion and resentment and envy.

It’s a difficult and scary journey, but by taking it a one-small-step-at-a-time it’s far less overwhelming. And if you are stuck, it’s a journey that must be made.

I broke free one tiny step at a time. Moving forward at a slow pace but always moving towards the me I was meant to be. The journey isn’t easy – I’m still on it – but if I can do, so can you.

So you see, readers, white knights can also take the form of pink pigs.

Readers, share your own tale of strength and courage by adding your comment to the post.  Indeed, white knights come in all colors, shapes and odors!

And a special thanks to white knight Jessica Sinn at Chick Lit Cafe  for recommending Lindsay as a guest on Writing Strong Women.

 

Show Up, Pay Attention, Tell the Truth, Stay Unattached to the Outcome

The rules I live by, as found at the bottom of my website, are:

 SHOW UP

PAY ATTENTION

TELL THE TRUTH

STAY UNATTACHED TO THE OUTCOME

And with that, my guide stone of:  Intent, Integrity and Impeccability.

 These few, but powerful words guide me and  keep me focused on what is important to me. Thinking of that, and you know how one’s mind can wander, this morning in conversation with one of my son’s, I recalled something that I intentionally do as an offering to others. Thought I’d share it with you.

One of the most powerful things I’ve learned about showing up, paying attention, telling the truth, and staying unattached to the outcome is my casual contact with other people I come across on a daily basis.

I have noticed, so as a result, now make it a part of who I am, and that is the impact that casual contact can have on another human being–a stranger, if you will.

How? By engaging them in friendly conversation–a conversation that often lifts their gloom and brings a smile.

For example: In a check out line at a grocery store, the clerk looks disinterested, does not connect with me, appears weary, sad, or whatever. Instead of being critical of her lack of interpersonal skills or professional training, (which, I confess, I have been guilty of) now I delight in touching base with them on a personal level and hope my connection lifts their mood. I might smile, ask them about their day, and then support their response with a word of encouragement or empathy.

It does my heart good when they smile back, knowing that someone, if even for a brief moment, notices them, connects with their humanity, and genuinely cares.

They smile, they come out of their funk–they feel appreciated, and touched by the human contact. So often, people feel so isolated–disconnected–like they are machines — or caught up in personal issues. Many times they carry heavy responsibilities and are just plain weary.

For a stranger to care enough to connect with them makes a big difference in their day. I love watching their transformation, and hope they carry that with them the rest of the day–and pass it on. I know I do, for they, in turn, brighten my day.

I now find myself eagerly looking for opportunities to give a Good Morning, a bright smile, a light-hearted response, empathy, small talk, idle chit chat with people I don’t know.

My payoff? I like me better.

I encourage you to

SHOW UP to life.

PAY ATTENTION to those around you.

TELL THE TRUTH always, and there is always something kind we can say to another.

STAY UNATTACHED TO THE OUTCOME by giving others the freedom to respond as they can. In  other words, don’t push the river.

 

Legacy of a Mom: WWII Nurse

We have a special guest blogger today, with a story that stole my heart. Kitty Delorey Fleischman (publisher/editor of
IDAHO magazine, at 102 S. 17th St., Ste. 201, Boise, ID 83702) and I were emailing a couple of weeks ago about our excitement to attend the upcoming annual conference of the National Federation of Press Women, meeting this year in Council Bluff, Iowa. During the course of our conversations, we began to talk about the setting of my latest book, A War Of Her Own, which takes place on the home front during WWII. Kitty began to tell me the story of her mother, and I knew the tale needed to be shared with others. She (and her mother) are our guests today. Her mother is passed, but the memories she left behind inspires us all. The post long, so if you can’t finish it in one reading, bookmark it and come back. Listen as the story unfolds, as recounted at her mom’s funeral. –Sylvia Dickey Smith 

Below, was the eulogy for Kitty’s mother. “Mark” who is speaking is Kitty’s youngest brother, Mark Delorey. Kitty wrote the eulogy at the request of her mother, and Mark read it at the funeral.

Like all true Irishmen, Mom (Lt. Mary Jane Healy) wanted a eulogy at her funeral. Never one to shy away from giving us challenges, a few months ago Mom asked that Kitty write this and that I (Mark speaking) read it. Ordinarily this would be a very difficult task. She made it easier by living such a rich life from which to draw material. And, she promised to help me this morning.

First I’d like to read you some excerpts from a letter written in 1985 by the “Richest Man in the World”:

“The picture is old. For forty years I’ve carried it in my billfold. I’ve showed it to everyone kind enough to listen to my stories. I wasn’t just a kid when I met her. I was 28-years old. She was a 24-year old army nurse. She was five foot one and weighed about a hundred pounds. She looked so darned cute in her oversized coveralls and army shoes, I called her ‘Butch.’

“No one in the world had ever said ‘Don’ and smiled the way she did. Her charm was her goodness. It’s true. I did_µ ask her to marry me on the second day I knew her, and after she said ‘yes’ on the third or fourth day, we talked about a little house in the country and a bunch of kids. The ship we were on was the U.S.S. Butner, a Liberty ship bound for India. On each long, hot day we stayed together as we went through the South Atlantic around South Africa into the Indian Ocean and on to Bombay.

“We parted in Bombay. I told her I loved her and that I’d find her again some day.

“All my dreams came true. The little white house in the country, all the kids. It’s true, kids, your mother did wear army shoes.”

That letter doesn’t just describe the beginning of a story though. It is the start of an epic which has spanned the globe and occupied a half-century. And while the story has had its sorrows, it is mainly filled with joy and laughter. It has grown from those two to include eight children as well as the partners who have come along to share their children’s lives and provide more than a dozen grandchildren who’ve kept them young and entertained.

For all of us who have shared in portions of this story, you know that Mary Jane and Donald Delorey have a rare and very special love. It is a love that has thrived through war, hard times and lean years, surmounted endless stacks of bills for doctors, kids’ clothes and shoes, car repairs, payments on houses that hadn’t sold along the way and debts taken on willingly to help out someone who needed it more than they. It is the kind of love that stood firmly side-by side, hand-in hand through the death of a cherished little boy and the loss of a baby.

Whatever happened, we Deloreys grew up knowing we were wealthy because we always had more than enough to go around. If anyone came to our house in need of a ride, a shoulder to cry on, a safe haven for their children, a ham sandwich and cup of coffee, or a few bucks to tide them over, they had only to ask. It was never a problem or a burden. One of Mom’s favorite expressions involved adding water to soup, and it is likely that she could have come up with some variation of the loaves and fishes miracle if the need had ever arisen.

Mom’s feelings of sympathy were generally expressed in practical ways. It was part of her common sense approach to life. Her kindness and generosity touched everyone who knew her. No one who knows Mom can doubt that—were she not today’s guest of honor—she would have a ham in the oven and a bowl of potato salad chilling in the refrigerator to bring over to the family. As it is, we know she is nearby and her love is surrounding each of us like a shield.

To us, she’s just Mom.” She often sang as she cooked our meals and washed our clothes. Many of her days were spent in household tasks and rearing children, and our house usually teemed with people because our friends were always welcome._¨

But even Mom wasn’t always a mom. Born in Detroit, Mom was the second of five children. She came a year after her brother Pete, and they were soon joined by Bill, Kitty and Chuck. They grew up as a closely-knit family in a home where the emphasis was on love of family, church and nation.

They struggled through the years of the Great Depression. When Grandpa lost his well-established plumbing business, the family migrated to join Grandpa’s brother Bill who offered to help them start over in California. But it didn’t take long for the Detroit Healys to find their way home to Michigan.

Graduating from high school, Mom pursued a career as a registered nurse. The curriculum was tough and the stringent demands made for studies, work and personal conduct at Detroit’s Providence Hospital in the late 1930s were calculated to test the mettle of prospective nurses. Mary Jane Healy stood proudly among the graduates of the Class of 1941.

The attack on Pearl Harbor started Mom thinking about the critical need for nurses, and when her brother Pete signed on with the army, she was close behind in her decision to join the army nurses’ corps. They would need someone to care for the injured, and it wasn’t Mom’s way to stand back and wait for someone else to do the job.

Mom rarely shared her army experiences. But heaven help the child who didn’t clean up a plate. When Mom talked about the starving children in India, it wasn’t hearsay or something she’d seen on newsreels—it came from a gentle woman who had watched in pain as children scooped scraps from G.I. garbage cans and fled to protect those sad riches.

One of the incidents she enjoyed and sometimes shared was about the time she hitched a ride on an unarmed military cargo plane to see Dad who had been flown back toward civilization to the hospital. It wasn’t until she hopped off the plane at the landing strip that the airman with the checklist understood the pilot’s cryptic message that, in addition to his load of fresh tomatoes, he was bringing in 100 pounds of sugar.

Mom spent 18 months overseas during World War II, taking care of soldiers who were part of a throw-away force sent halfway around the world to delay an enemy everyone knew couldn’t be beaten. History shows the Army strategists underestimated the power of our parents. It was not a mistake we’d have made.

Then she was sent to Okinowa, to be among the first medical units set to wade ashore following the invasion of Japan. We’ve always wondered if that might have factored into Japan’s surrender.

When it came time to be discharged, she was offered a promotion to first lieutenant if she’d wait a few days for it to be processed. But home beckoned, and neither rank, honors nor bonus money would sway her.

After a short visit at home, she went to Massachusetts to see Dad, who waited in traction at Lovell General Hospital. For all she had done, and with all the stories Dad had told them about her, Mom walked into his hospital ward to a thunderous ovation from his fellow bedridden heroes.

Even as youngsters, we realized that Mom made “Rosie the Riveter” look like a whimp. A non-swimmer who was terrified of the water, she had carried her pack up a scramble net thrown 40 feet over the sides of a ship heaving in the throes of a typhoon rather than being unceremoniously hauled up in a basket like those who were too afraid to make the climb.

Dad often described her putting on that 50-pound pack and marching off the ship and into the war-torn jungles of India and Burma. So, at an age where most kids settled arguments with “…oh yeah? Well, my dad can beat your dad,” we’d been known to make threats about how our MOM could beat their dads.

Small, tough, Irish and darned proud of it, Mom’s courage was undaunted by snakes, jungle vermin or anything else. She stood by dad’s bedside after his heart attack in 1960 knowing there were six young children from one- to 12-years old waiting for them at home, and she has nursed us all through broken bones, concussions, beestings and a host of childhood illnesses and disasters, as well as the pitfalls of adulthood.

So, it was no surprise to us that—despite cancer’s fearsome reputation—in typical style, Mom quietly has made her stand, and for more than a decade, has laughed off the pain and prayed away the effects of a disease that makes people willing to grasp at any frail straw for relief.

She did it with her boundless love, her unfailing courage and her undying faith. It is her life and that love, courage and faith we are here today to celebrate.

As we share our grief and shed our tears, we look around at a group created and bound together by the love she and Dad have shared, and we remember that this, of all times, is when we most need to hold tightly to each other to preserve her beautiful legacy and treasure her memory.

We are Mom’s legacy.

NOTE: Kitty’s dad is listed in the Army Ranger Hall of Fame. What a story of WWII Nurse!

Feminist? Unabashedly!

Unabashedly A Feminist

Among the reasons I write strong women today is because of the inspiration I’ve gained from others who have done such. Over the last forty years, I’ve filled my library, and my mind, with writings by women who offered what I needed. These women have inspired me to find my voice, to identify and claim who I am, what I stand for, and what I refuse to stand for. Their writing also helped me change those things that I didn’t like about myself. I find it amazing how women touch our lives so many years after they have passed from this world—women who lived and died, often years before we were born. Yet still they teach us much about ourselves.

One such example is the life and writings of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, born in 1860.

I first met her in a Women in Literature class at the University of Texas at El Paso in the early  1980s. I was forty-three years old and a sophomore. (Non-traditional students rock! It is never too late for a woman to go to college.)

My professor chose Charlotte’s feminist utopian novel, Herland, first published in 1915, for our class to read and discuss. (That cherished book is still an important part of my library, thirty years later.) I must admit, I was inspired—mesmerized—blown away—that a woman could pen such a novel at that time—that she had the wherewithal, the foresight, the wisdom, the forward-thinking—to do such.

Abandoned by her husband, Frederick Beecher, a relative of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charlotte’s mother was forced to rear her children alone, which meant Gilman moved around a lot, and her education suffered as a result.

Despite her opposition to marriage, Charlotte did marry an artist named Charles Stetson in 1884, and in their 10-year marriage, they had a daughter named Katherine. During this time, Charlotte became a social activist. She also suffered a severe depression and underwent a series of unusualtreatments for it. This experience is likely to have inspired her best-known short story The Yellow Wall-Paper, penned in 1892. (If you don’t think being in an unhappy marriage is depressing–this story will convince you.)

While best known for writing fiction, she was also a well-known lecturer and intellectual. One of her greatest nonfiction publications is Women and Economics, published in 1898. Today, many women struggle with being called a feminist—not Charlotte. In this work, she took a bold stand and encouraged women to gain economic independence, cementing her standing as a social theorist.

Other significant works of nonfiction followed, such as The Home: Its Work and Influence (1903) and Does a Man Support His Wife? (1915). Charlotte also established The Forerunner, a magazine where she expressed her own ideas on social reform and women’s issues.

In 1900, Charlotte married again, this time to her cousin George Gilman, and the two remained happily married until he died in 1934. A year later, at the age of 75, Charlotte learned that she had inoperable breast cancer and ended her life, leaving behind a note that said she “chose chloroform over cancer.”

Today, much of her work is beginning to be recognized as important and is being re-published. She had an incredible influence on women of her day, and offers much to us today. Let’s give her the recognition she deserves. Read her books. Let her inspire you. Tell others about her.  Don’t be ashamed to call yourself a feminist.

Instead, name it, and claim it.

 

 

 

 

 

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